Post by That Duckfan on Mar 22, 2021 12:56:14 GMT
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Directed by Hendel Butoy and Mike Gabriel
Animation screenplay by Jim Cox, Karey Kirkpatrick, Byron Simpson, Joe Ranft
Story supervisor Joe Ranft
Suggested by characters created by Margery Sharp
Starring Bob Newhart as Bernard and Eva Gabor as Miss Bianca
Featuring John Candy, Tristan Rogers, Adam Ryen, George C. Scott, Wayne Robson, Douglas Seale, Frank Welker
With Bernard Fox, Peter Firth, Billy Barty, Ed Gilbert, Carla Meyer, Russi Taylor
It's the Eisner era, and you know what that means. It's sequel time. Excepting the The Three Caballeros, The Rescuers Down Under is Disney's first animated theatrical sequel, and it sets the bar by being simply terrible. It has none of the charm or elegance of the original. That said, not all is bad. Down Under features some gorgeous animation and innovations in terms of camera angles and depth of field, thanks to the new Computer Animation Production System.
Its structural problems are simple. The first act of this movie, up to Cody being kidnapped by McLeach, is over before we're even introduced to our heroes. The movie then has to stall for time by introducing pointless B-plots and annoying comedy characters, before continuing the main plot 35 minutes later. But this just masks the movie's real problem: it's got nothing to say that the original didn't already cover. Poachers are bad, I guess.
There'd been previous attempts at making a Rescuers sequel, including what became Oliver & Company, and I wish they'd done the same with this movie and written them out. The relationship between Cody and Marahute is a special one, and deserves to be the centerpiece of a movie. Here, Cody spends most of his time locked up, which makes him a very passive character. Even the scene in McLeach's hideout doesn't focus on him, but on Frank the frill-necked lizard, one of the most annoying Disney sidekicks to grace the screen. Cody remains woefully underdeveloped.
It's nice to have Bernard and Miss Bianca back, were it not that their relationship is plagued with the worst '90s trope there is: will-they-or-won't-they. Consequently, they spend most of their time separated, defeating the point of the duo. Bernard ends up saving the day pretty much single-handedly. This leans into another disappointment: the original had three good female characters, whereas the sequel is a real sausage fest. Another secondary issue is that Eva Gabor's voice has visibly aged compared to her character. No wonder, she was pushing 70 at the time of recording.
Orville, whose VA had died in the interim, is replaced by Wilbur, voiced by John Candy. And boy, what material he's given to work with. This is the biggest waste of talent since Nigel Hawthorne in The Black Cauldron. There's a pointless sequence that does nothing but instill the fear of hospitals into children, and some more badly-written jokes that make him look pathetic. In fact, so many of the comedic characters in this movie are pathetic. Look at Frank, look at Bernard. I hate pathetic characters, they're such a waste.
On the other side, there's the McLeach. McLeach is a humorless jerk. That's all there is to his character. He clearly knows nothing about business, otherwise he would have kept those eggs and sold all those precious hides in his hideout. Nope, he's just a psycho who likes to kill animals, and everyone else is too pathetic to do anything about it. This is not a fun villain. Bill Sykes is a Keystone Cop compared to this guy. That said, I still take issue with Bernard giving him that final push. Bernard is too pure for that. And McLeach deserves to die by his own bloody hands.
Humorless villains, wasted acting potential, annoying sidekicks... If there's one movie The Rescuers Down Under most reminds me of, it's The Black Cauldron. Another element those movies share is a lack of songs. It's a special shame because The Rescuers had such great, emotional songs, that really managed to set the tone. The Rescuers Down Under has none of that. It's subtle, but yet another drop in the forgettable bucket.
The Rescuers Down Under even deprives us of a satisfying conclusion. We never see Cody reunited with his mom, Marahute with her eggs, McLeach's animals released into the wild, and Bernard and Bianca getting married. We end on Wilbur being left alone with hatching eggs. What a way to finish a story.
It's a shame that such beautiful animation is wasted on such a bad story. Especially the outdoor scenes, which are still breathtaking to watch. I think they even look better than subsequent movies. It's clear the artists really took the scenery to heart. In this sense, and this sense alone, it manages to stand out from all the other Australia-themed movies being released at that that time.
Some claim Jeffrey Katzenberg deliberately tanked this movie, by scheduling it alongside Home Alone and pulling the advertising far too early. Katzenberg's dubious creative record doesn't speak in his favor, but he may have been right in burying this bomb.